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July-August 2006 Selected Content

Learning 101 - Tamra Orr

Come and Join F.A.M.U.

Have you ever harbored a fear or concern for days, weeks, months -- even years -- only to finally find out that your problem is one that a lot of people have? Have you felt that weight slip off of your shoulders as you recognize that you aren't alone anymore? Have you felt the sudden rush of freedom as you stop battling the problem and just accept it?

I hope you have. I know I have. In fact, it just happened this past week.

I was sitting in a very loud, very busy indoor gym listening to a plethora of children giggling, screaming, yelling, and laughing and somehow sorting out the sound of my own chicks, like the penguins did in The March of the Penguins. I casually asked the group of mothers at the table if they had one particular concern about homeschooling that they would like to see addressed in HEM. I imagined responses like, "Yes, how can I ever teach algebra when I don't understand it myself?" or "Could you write about knowing how to recognize when your child has grasped a concept and it's time to move on?" Heck, even the typical, "Hey, could you address the ongoing issue of socialization?" wouldn't have surprised me. After all, I knew that, as a group, we ranged from newbies to veterans. Instead, this was unanimously stated by all the women present: "How do I deal with my feelings of inadequacy as a homeschooling wife and mother?"

What? Feelings of inadequacy? You mean . . . I'm not the only one? I calmly asked for more details. Explain what you mean by feeling incompetent.

They did.

"I get so discouraged by reading about all these perfect homeschooled children out there when all mine want to do is play Playstation all day," said one mom. Another said, "I talk to other mothers online and they seem to have it so together. They have already baked bread, taught a lesson on bio-chemistry, and gone on a field trip by noon. I got up and answered a few emails." A third mom added, "I cannot keep the house clean and I don't get how these other families manage it. What am I doing wrong?"

I was flabbergasted. Here I thought I was the only one castigating myself for not providing a rich enough educational environment for my children while also making sure the van is washed, the mortgage is paid, the next meal is semi-nutritious, and I have had a shower. I was forever comparing myself to the other mothers I met. Look how thin she is. Look how nice she wears her hair. Look at their organized household. Look at the vegetable garden she put in her backyard. Look at how well her kids behave. Look at that incredible meal she took time to make and bring to the park so her kids would not go from family to family asking for snacks like my children want to do. Argh.

Apparently comparing ourselves to other parents and always coming up lacking is a common habit for many of us. Well, it needs to stop. Please join me in my new mission: F.A.M.U. or Families Against Measuring Up. Its mission statement will be based on Max Ehrmann's cheesy but somehow profound "Desiderata" in which he states:

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

The tenets are as follows:

1. We promise to stop comparing ourselves to others because it does not lead to anything other than depression, angst, and chocolate ice cream.

2. We promise to remember that while other people may be more organized, better looking, wealthier, or more interesting than we are, there are some people who amazingly think the same thing about us.

3. We promise to appreciate that the people whose houses are clean when we come to visit either (a) can afford maids, (b) cleaned for three hours because they knew we were coming and, if we open a closet door or go upstairs, we will see that they are even sloppier than us or (c) obviously neglect their children completely in order to make sure everything is spotless.

4. We promise to keep in mind that if other people's children are always perfectly polite, quiet, and obedient, they have either been medicated, threatened, or replaced with aliens.

5. We promise most of all to remember that our children are 24-hour sponges who imitate our every move and if they see us feeling inadequate or inferior, they may feel that way, too. None of us wants our kids to feel anything but blindingly brilliant, beautiful, and beloved, and to do this we have to model the same concepts. As parents, we must accept our flaws, appreciate our strengths, and blame our mistakes on the dog. Little eyes are always watching!

© 2006, Tamra Orr

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